Fifth Child By Lessing In “The Fifth Child,” Lessing contrasts societys idea of an “ideal” family to the “real” dysfunctional family in our everyday lives. Harriet and Davids dream was to have the “ideal” family. They made the mistake of setting standards too high for themselves and putting a front of an ideal family, which was just a cover for the real dysfunctional one. People in society tend to believe that the ideal family is what life is all about. They believe that as long as they can obtain the ideal family, this will bring them happiness.
The reality is that this perfect family structure isnt obtainable. Bridget, for instance, comes from a dysfunctional family and goes to stay with Harriet and Davids family to get a taste of their “ideal” family. Even the family realizes that Bridget longs for this feeling of family togetherness. “Bridget has to be told by you hat she is welcome.” She does not realize that Harriet and Davids ideal family is just a picture they painted so others could believe this it is ideal. The picture they painted is of a big house, lots of kids, and big family parties.
This doesnt necessarily mean that this is a happy family. David comes from what is thought of as the ideal family. He had everything anyone could ever ask for. Although, his parents were divorced, no one was ever around for him, and he set himself in solitude. “My room-that was home.” The “ideal” family that turned out to be the dysfunctional family; is what this is all about. The idea of a perfect family is the dream of a dysfunctional family.
Harriet has a strong belief in this also; she and Davids dreams create her ideas of the ideal family. Their dreams and wishes are irrational; they are what they want in life. Dorothy describes Harriet as having “eyes bigger than her stomach.” Harriet wants more than what she can handle. She does not realize that what she wishes for cannot come true. Harriet and David cannot fulfill their fantasies; their idea of an ideal family cannot be created. Families arent meant to be ideal; they are dysfunctional.
All families have problems. This is what life is all about. Life isnt always what you want but what you put into it.